Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs. Sometimes both arms or both legs swell.
Primary Lymphoedema is either congenital or spontaneous, it is a result of an inherited abnormality or an inefficient functioning of the lymphatic and venous system, which can be present from birth or can develop in young adulthood or even later in life
Secondary Lymphoedema This can occur following treatment for cancer, radiation therapy, surgery, trauma or recurrent infections, where lymph nodes/lymph vessels may have been removed or damaged.
There's no cure for lymphedema. But it can be managed with early diagnosis and diligent care of your affected body part.
At first, lymphedema in an arm or leg may cause symptoms such as:
swelling and a heavy or achy feeling in your arms or legs that may spread to your fingers and toes
a dent when you press on the swollen area
swelling that is soft to the touch and is usually not painful at first
Lymphedema that is not controlled may cause:
more swelling, weakness, and difficulty moving your arm or leg
itchy, red, warm skin, and sometimes a rash
wounds that don’t heal, and an increased risk of skin infections that may cause pain, redness, and swelling
thickening or hardening of the skin
tight feeling in the skin; pressing on the swollen area does not leave a dent
Lymphedema in the head or neck may cause:
swelling and a tight uncomfortable feeling on your face, neck, or under your chin
difficulty moving your head or neck
Ways to Manage
Steps you may be advised to take to prevent lymphedema or to keep it from getting worse:
Protect your skin. Use lotion to avoid dry skin. Use sunscreen. Wear plastic gloves with cotton lining when working in order to prevent scratches, cuts, or burns. Keep your feet clean and dry. Keep your nails clean and short to prevent ingrown nails and infection. Avoid tight shoes and tight jewelry.
Exercise. Work to keep body fluids moving, especially in places where lymphedema has developed. Start with gentle exercises that help you to move and contract your muscles. Ask your doctor or nurse what exercises are best for you.
Manual lymph drainage. See a trained specialist (a certified lymphedema therapist) to receive a type of therapeutic massage called manual lymph drainage. Therapeutic massage works best to lower lymphedema when given early, before symptoms progress.